Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Food gifts for the festive season

Shop local in Renfrew-Collingwood


Whether you celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, December is a special time to spend with family and friends. Growing up, our family celebrated what my parents called Dong, which sounds like “cold” in Chinese and occurs every year during the winter solstice. And food was at the centre of our celebrations, of course.

Here in Renfrew-Collingwood, we’re lucky to have a huge variety of multicultural stores and foods to discover across the neighbourhood. Here are a few food gifts to bring to your next family gathering.

Jambo Grill
3219 Kingsway between McKinnon and Cecil

Jambo Grill chai spice simmered with oat milk. So good. Photos by Julie Cheng
Jambo Grill chai spice simmered with oat milk. So good. Photos by Julie Cheng

Jambo Grill is one of our family’s go-to restaurants in the neighbourhood, but it’s only recently that a friend told me about the Chaiwala Masala that they sell. Now you, too, can make your own tasty chai at home. Working from home, I have a pot of chai warming on the stove all day – so comforting on a cold winter’s day. I use oat milk, which, when simmered, turns slightly sweet. In summer, my daughter drinks it cold with ice.

The Chaiwala Masala makes a delightful gift for tea lovers. Just stop off at London Drugs for a box of orange pekoe or Earl Grey tea to go with it. I like the Ridgways organic brand.

Banana Grove
2705 East 22nd Avenue and Slocan

Pick up a bottle of balsamic fig glaze while you’re at Banana Grove’s deli counter.
Pick up a bottle of balsamic fig glaze while you’re at Banana Grove’s deli counter.

Reflecting the historic Italian community, this cozy neighbourhood grocery store packs many good deals. You can find all the ingredients for tiramisu here. There’s a great deli counter where you can create your own charcuterie board of cured meats, cheeses and olives. Or you can ask them to put together a party platter for you. Go early as there’s often a line-up.

While you’re at the deli counter, pick up a bottle of balsamic reduction. It tastes wonderful drizzled over salad, particularly tomato-bocconcini salad. At a recent get-together, my daughter brought a good loaf of rosemary sourdough, which we cut up and served with a dish of olive oil with a swirl of balsamic reduction as dip. It was a huge hit.

Pick up a bottle of balsamic fig glaze while you’re at Banana Grove’s deli counter.

Chula Vista Grocery
2982 East 22nd Avenue between Renfrew and Nootka

Chula Vista carries traditional Asian foods.
Chula Vista carries traditional Asian foods.

This little grocery store across from Renfrew Park Community Centre brings in Asian foods that I remember from my childhood, like dried mushrooms, dried adzuki beans and a host of other familiar ingredients that I don’t know how to cook.

I recognized the adzuki beans as the essential ingredient in the red bean soup that’s often served at the end of a Chinese banquet. I love this dessert and am committed to learning to cook it so one day I can share it with friends and family.

Ragazzi Pizza
2996 East 22nd Avenue at Nootka

Ragazzi pizza may be the best in town, especially fresh out of the oven.
Ragazzi pizza may be the best in town, especially fresh out of the oven.

Delivery is great, but there’s nothing like eating in at Ragazzi where you can get a piping hot pizza fresh out of the oven.

My family has been going to Ragazzi for their delicious pizza for 20 years or more, when brothers Nick and Paul first started this pizzeria. Their caprese salad is simple yet amazing. They also offer re-loadable gift cards.

Ragazzi means “two brothers” in Italian and, boy, would mama be proud. The family later opened the popular Via Tevere on Victoria Drive.

Marui Bakery
3340 Kingsway in the London Drugs mall

It wouldn’t be a celebration without one of Marui’s fresh mango cakes, which features two layers of airy white cake with chunks of mango and whip cream in between and covered with mango slices. It is an essential birthday cake in our family. Their egg tarts are exceptional, too.

Purdys Chocolate Factory
2777 Kingsway at Earles

What would we do without our local Purdys chocolate factory? It’s a neighbourhood icon, with its purple fountain and small playground out front. We spent a lot of time with our kids here.

Bao Bakery
5115 Joyce Street and Vanness

I consider myself lucky to have experienced the oven-fresh apple tarts from the Hong Kong Café many years ago. The apple tarts from Bao Bakery bring back memories of those days gone by, and I have made friends happy bringing over a box of these for dessert. Their buns and xiu mai from the warmer are convenient for a quick bite.

Los Guerreros
3317 Kingsway #102 near Joyce

During the heat of summer I stopped in to Los Guerreros looking for electrolyte water upon a friend’s recommendation and found it busy with customers picking up traditional Latin American foods and baked goods. I loved the pinatas hanging from the ceiling.

Masala Meats
4409 Boundary Road at 29th Avenue

Masala Meats is one of my go-tos for mild lemon ginger chicken breast and their spicy Jaipuri teekha masala wings, both which are easy to cook in the oven or on the barbecue. Check out their frozen section for party favourites such as pakoras and samosas (try the mini ones that come with chutney).

Have too much stuff? Give the gift of community

There are many organizations in Renfrew-Collingwood that are doing amazing work to bring people together, support our most vulnerable and take care of ourselves and the environment. Consider giving the gift of community this holiday season instead of more stuff.

Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Recreation and programs for all ages including music, dance, art and physical and social activities.

Still Moon Arts Society. Runs the annual Harvest Moon Festival and is involved in local art and environmental stewardship initiatives.

Windermere Community Fitness Park. A free fitness park for the whole community. Fundraising continues for additional amenities including signage, seating, landscaping and a table tennis court.

Fresh Roots. Runs schoolyard farms and contributed to this summer’s community supported agriculture program to provide fresh veggies to residents in partnership with the Renfrew Collingwood Food Hub/Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

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Local model train shop Central Hobbies for sale as owner retires

Go-to destination for train enthusiasts from all over B.C. and beyond


Kathy and Hal at Central Hobbies are looking forward to retirement. Photo by Paul Reid
Kathy and Hal at Central Hobbies are looking forward to retirement. Photo by Paul Reid

“Every train has a caboose,” quipped a customer, in reference to Hal’s upcoming retirement.

“Now that’s something I’ll miss,” says Hal to me, ”all the little fun remarks just like that.”

Yes, the caboose is here for Central Hobbies (located at 2825 Grandview Highway and Renfrew). Hal will surely miss his long-time customers, and they, him. For the past 35 years, Hal and his Central Hobbies have been the go-to destination for train enthusiasts from all over British Columbia and beyond.

You see, Central Hobbies is like a mecca for train-heads. Take Calvin, who alerted us to the store’s closing in his online post:

“I managed to find some downtime to make the pilgrimage into Vancouver to visit Central Hobbies, which is slated to close in June 2023.

“Where I live, there isn’t a model train-focused hobby shop, so you can imagine dropping me into the midst of a store the size of Central Hobbies would be much like shooting me into space. I spent over two hours browsing the store … I even had to step outside one time to collect myself – the selection was just THAT wild! I felt like a kid again.”

Every now and then a celebrity
comes to Central Hobbies - Kathy and Rod Stewart. August 2014 Central Hobbies News
Every now and then a celebrity
comes to the store – Kathy and Rod Stewart. August 2014 Central Hobbies News

So I met with Hal and yes, it’s true. “Body says it’s time,” he tells me. So, this spring, Hal and his gang (Kathy and Bill) will be preparing to wrap things up. For Hal, the owner, this means he has put Central Hobbies up for sale. Know anybody? How about that gent talking to Kathy in this photo here? He might have some cash.

Kathy has been with Hal at Central Hobbies for about 25 years. “When she started, she knew nothing. Now, she runs the store.” Hal and Kathy definitely will retire whether the store sells or not. Bill, well, I hear Hal might throw him in with the deal.

The price? That too you can iron out with Hal, but you might be looking at somewhere around a million dollars, as that is about the value of the current stock. The buyer would also receive the excellent reputation and connections that Hal and the gang have been building all these years.

And the return on investment. Fugget about it. I’ll leave that to you and Hal to discuss, but with sales booming more than ever right across North America, it sounds like the new owner will stand to pull in a fairly pretty penny.

Hal had always loved trains – ever since he was a young boy. So, later on in his life, when the opportunity to buy Gary’s Train Centre (on Broadway) presented itself, Hal jumped at the chance. Actually, he was hesitant at first, but with the encouragement of a friend, Hal went all aboard, bought Gary’s, and soon, Central Hobbies was to be born here in Renfrew-Collingwood.

So that’s the latest news from Central Hobbies. Hal, Kathy, Bill – wishing you all the best! To our readers, keep your ear to the track when it comes to a new owner.

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December 2022 issue of RCC News is here

Happy holidays. Check out the great events and activities happening in our neighbourhood in this latest issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News and stay connected to your neighbours and community.

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News December 2022

View the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Central Hobbies for sale as owner retires
  • Local food gifts for the festive season
  • Windermere Leadership students adopt storm drains for the environment
  • VSB proposes changes to Carleton school boundary
  • Scenes from 2022’s Winter Carnival and Community Tree Lighting
  • Artist call for Collingwood Days 2023
  • The message of Christmas by Vince Prasad
  • Thank you contributors, advertisers and distributors

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email

The deadline for the January 2023 issue is a few days earlier due to the holidays on December 8.

We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.